When we hear the stories of great women and men of the past, there are two reactions we can have.
First, we feel admiration for all they were able to accomplish. Whether it is the story of a general who achieved a great military victory or an artist who excelled at painting, we marvel at all the difficulties they faced and obstacles they had to overcome. What sets great people apart is not only their success but the courage and perseverance they display in achieving it. Hearing their stories, we cannot help but take it all in with wide-eyed amazement.
Second, not only would we feel admiration for such people but we often feel inspired by them. We cannot help but ask ourselves what we would do if faced with the same situations. Would we remain motivated and resolute despite the opposition? Or would we take the path of least resistance, settling for something less than we dreamed of achieving? When we hear what others were able to overcome and accomplish, it can motivate us to dream bigger and work harder. We not only admire them but seek to imitate them. In the process, our lives are changed.
Today, we gather to hear the story of the greatest man who ever lived - Jesus Christ. And we marvel at the greatest love story ever told - how this same Jesus Christ, though innocent, suffered and died out of love for sinful humanity. It can also be considered the greatest adventure story ever - how God came down to earth to rescue a people who were lost.
Our first reaction is admiration at how much courage Jesus showed in being condemned unjustly, tortured and, ultimately killed. We can admire the stamina he showed in carrying the cross through the streets of Jerusalem even after having lost so much blood and enduring three hours of agony on the cross. We can marvel at His uncanny serenity through it all, facing the betrayal and abandonment by His friends without rage or bitterness.
However, it is clear that we cannot stop at mere admiration. We cannot simply applaud Jesus for all He did to save us and leave it at that. It is clear that we are meant to imitate the humility and love that our Saviour showed throughout His passion and death. This story must not only impress but inspire us. Hearing the story of Jesus, our lives must be forever changed.
Considering all that Jesus endured and suffered we might say to ourselves, “How could I ever begin to imitate Him?” While few of us will be called to give our lives as Jesus did, there are small steps we can take every day to imitate His love and mercy in the face of so much cruelty and suffering.
The first way we can imitate Jesus is to bear wrongs patiently. When someone insults us or hurts our feelings, our first instinct is to fight back. It is natural to want to defend and vindicate ourselves. However, this can so often lead to more conflict and resentment. Jesus left us with a different example. When He was being falsely accused, He remained silent. Rather than point the finger at others, He was content to let the truth speak for itself confident that God would vindicate Him.
It takes a great deal of humility to not return insult for insult or injury for injury. Our pride often compels us to set the record straight and to let others know they can’t mess with us. However, the great saints teach us that we should be happy when we are misunderstood, overlooked and criticized because it is then that we are most like Jesus. And, when we are like Jesus in His suffering, then we can begin to know that power that flows from His Resurrection.
The second way we can imitate Jesus is by forgiving others willingly. On the cross, Jesus said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He was able to look beyond His own pain to take pity on the ignorance of those who were putting Him to death. Just so, we must look beyond our own feelings of hurt to the ignorance of those who harm us. What struggles in their own lives are causing them to act the way they do? What bitterness in their hearts is causing them to lash out as they do? By imitating Jesus and being quick to forgive, we can bring healing and peace to others rather than more conflict and division.
The world tells us that security and peace come through power and violence. However, Jesus tells us something quite different. It is through patient suffering and forgiveness that our enemies are conquered. Until each of us begins to imitate His example, our world will never know lasting peace and security. We know that Jesus’ death is not the end of the story. His Resurrection victory will not only show the world that He is the Savior but inspire countless people through the centuries to follow His example of mercy and love. Because of it, the history of the world was changed. Our lives can also be changed by it if we are willing to bear wrongs patiently and forgive others willingly as He did.